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A Step Closer To The Male Pill

New research results show future male contraceptive to be safe and effective.

Australian researchers gave 55 men a combination of hormones for a year, shutting down sperm production. Doctors say none of the men produced children during the study. When they stopped taking the hormones, their sperm went back to normal.

Dr. Regine Sitruk-Ware, a representative of the independent research group Population Council, which is trying to develop a male pill, visited The Early Show to discuss the latest on the birth control method.

The ANZAC Research Institute in Sydney and the Prince Henry Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne used progestin and testosterone to create a hormone cocktail for the male contraceptive that was injected or contained in implants.

In the study, the progestin hormone, which has been found to be safe in a majority of women who used it, is injected every three months in the men. Testosterone, which replaces the male hormone to maintain normal health and sex drive, was also used in the contraceptive.

"Very few side effects have been noted and it's due to the component of the treatment — the male hormone," Sitruk-Ware explains.

According to the study, a few men did experience some acne, some greasy skin, mood swings, and sweating after taking the contraceptive.

It may take a few years before the male contraceptive is available to the public.

"This type of combination would need at least five years to be available to
the at-large public," Sitruk-Ware says. "A pill will take seven to 10 years."

In the future, Sitruk-Ware explains, the male contraceptive may be ideal for couples in a stable relationship where the woman is at higher risk from some of the side effects of the pill, like blood clots and stroke. Many health concerns about the pill concern an earlier version that was in use in 1975 and earlier.

The treatment is reversible and a man can impregnate a woman after ending contraceptive use, according to Sitruk-Ware.

Sitruk-Ware says, "Young men who participated in the studies were very pleased, and 82 percent say that they would use the treatment if it were available."

The Population Council says a male pill is in the early stage of development and it would not contain any hormone.

There have also been concerns about the connection between the pill and cancer. The National Cancer Institute says a recent study found the use of oral contraceptives did not increase the risk of breast cancer. Studies have shown oral contraceptives can decrease the risk of ovarian cancer and may increase the risk of cervical cancer and certain liver tumors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the pill is the most popular form of contraception used by women under age 30 — 17 percent use it. Overall, 18 percent of women and 7 percent of men get sterilized to prevent pregnancy.

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